Edge storage appliance with zfs replication to mothership

The story:

My largest client needed a solution to reliably enable access to enterprise data for a few tiny branch locations. Each location has two or three laptops that needed to function even when their internet connection is down. All edge location data needs to be sent to the mothership ideally on a daily basis or as soon as an internet connection is available.

Obviously these laptops are vulnerable to ransomeware and other infections so the data should be resilient even in this scenario. And due to tight budgets, IT support is minimal for these edge locations.

My solution consists of repurposing some Intel NUCs (similar to the one from STH’s Tiny / Mini / Micro project) on which I installed Ubuntu server with OpenVPN to the mothership. For storage I added two 512GB SATA SSDs on which I created a ZFS pool (with mirroring). The one critical dataset holding the data relevant for our business at that edge location is shared on the edge network via SMB and is protected with a hourly zfs snapshot schedule. A cronjob tries to replicate that dataset to the mothership daily after business hours.

The solution has been working well and is surprisingly low maintenance, so I’m wondering if it could be productised. What do you think? What solutions do you deploy for edge storage?

We deploy TrueNAS & Synology which have tools to do this.

The reason I didn’t go with any of those is cost and reliability. TrueNAS needs more beefy hardware and a license. Synology is a bit expensive and had some reliability issues with recent models (according to some youtubers).
Neither can beat the cost of repurposing existing hardware (free).

TrueNAS DOES NOT require a license and I have a home TrueNAS system running on Intel Atom C3338 @ 1.50GHz with 8GB of ram. (I don’t consider that beefy) We are not aware of any reliability issues with the Synology.

I thought you meant the Enterprise TrueNAS not TrueNAS Core (formerly FreeNAS).

About Synology, this is what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=synology+problems

You said with recent models of which there have not been any issues, some certain OLDER models had some bad power supplies.

I can beat that… I have Truenas running on an Atom D525 with 4GB of ram, it’s only a single disk so not very resilient, but running and storing files all the same. Boots off an SD card because there was a slot available.

An HP T740 would probably work really well if you can find a used one. Even the older T630 can have dual m.2 SSD for a mirror, and boot from USB, if I had an extra, I’d probably try it.

I started reading about TrueNAS Scale, looks very interesting. Many thank for the comments!